On Running My First half-Marathon
The last time I ran in a timed, race-type event was in high school. It was gym class and one of the kids in my class was on the cross country team. I didn’t like him very much (I don’t now remember why). He was not only on the cross-country team but he was pretty much the best runner in the school. But, because I didn’t like him much I was determined to beat him in this mile long race. I kept up with him for about 3/4 of a mile until he finally kicked it into gear and left me in his dust. He beat be by about 10 seconds or so. I ran that mile in 5:35. He ran it in 5:25. After dry heaving four times, I promised myself I would never run that fast again on purpose.
It was that experience that I was thinking about as I stood in a mass of about 18,500 people about to start the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half-Marathon. If you follow me on twitter, or we are friends on facebook, you’ll know that I’ve been training for this event all summer. Actually, I’ve been training for it for 7 weeks. My wife signed me up in May and I kinda forgot about it till about 7 weeks before the race. It hit me when we were with some friends that the race was only that far away and a few of them were pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Thankfully if you google “7 week 1/2 marathon training” a few options come up! And, thankfully, I had done some running early this year so I had at least dealt a little bit with the mental transition into running. Of course, six weeks into the training I realized that I had miscalculated and I only had six weeks to train. (I’m not so good at math!)
In my training I had already run 10 miles so I felt pretty good about the 13.1 coming before me. But, I learned a lot this past Sunday. Here are some random thoughts for those of you who are training or desiring to run a 1/2 marathon.
- First, the whole experience is a ton of fun! I’ve never been to a race before so this was all new to me. We went as a family to the expo on Saturday to pick up my race bib/number and spent some time checking out the booths and getting free stuff. It was interesting to see and experience the “runner culture.” Race day was great too. The energy was really high and that made running that much easier. However, my only complaint was that the “Rock and Roll” wasn’t so rocky and rolly. In fact the bands were kinda disappointing. Most of the energy came from the spectators but running up and then back down Kelly drive was a pretty quiet and rather lonely place.
- Follow a training program, even if you’ve been running. This was really helpful for me and made me run distances that I probably wouldn’t have done without the program telling me what to do. I didn’t follow it perfectly but I followed it pretty closely. As I said the longest I had run in my training was 10 miles and I felt great up till then. After that, I struggled. I am not sure how much of this was the mental hurdle or just the physical training but I am sure missing that week in the training didn’t help.
- Go to the bathroom early and don’t drink anything 2 hours before the race. I read this on a few other blogs/websites and was kinda confused. I thought I was supposed to be nice and hydrated. Well, hydration starts the week of the race (in fact, good hydration is necessary for normal life too!). If you are well hydrated it won’t hurt you to not drink much 2 hours before. Why do we do this? Well, simple. So you don’t have to stand in line for 35 minutes for a port-a-potty. The closer it gets to race time, the longer the lines get. Also, nothing is worse than having to head into a port-a-potty on mile 3 after some hot and sweaty dude get’s done. I gave in an took a small drink before we ran and I ended up having to stop quickly at mile 4. Thankfully there wasn’t a line.
- Men, be careful with those nipples. Yep. I just said nipples. I had heard this from some friends but apparently if your shirt rubs against your nipples over and over again for 13+ miles it rubs them raw and they can start to bleed. Everyone who watches The Office remembers Andy Bernard’s bleeding nipples in the race episode. Yeah, that’s for real. While mine didn’t bleed, but they are scabbed and slowly recovering. I did see some poor dude who had totally bled through his shirt and made Andy look like he was in good shape. Best way forward? Put Bandaids on them. Other thing is, don’t run in a new shirt. I’ve found in training that some shirts rub more than others so I wouldn’t use an untested shirt for race day.
- If you run with headphones in training, bring them with (and visa-versa). I think ideally I like the feeling of running without music. But, I mostly trained with them so that was just one extra hurdle to overcome mentally. After running without them however, I think I am going to run without music more and more. One of my best memories of the event was when we were running down Kelly drive in a part of the race where there wasn’t any music. The sound of everyone’s feet hitting the ground over and over again was just really cool and strangely soothing.
- It’s a strangely emotional experience. I found myself going in and out of some weird emotions as I ran. I was cracking up at some of the signs. My favorite one I can’t really repeat on my blog or I’ll get blocked from some of your web content filters. My favorite one was of a guy who was wearing a shirt where he had written in marker “I love my wife.” It was weird, I almost got choked up. I don’t know why this. I am sure someone could explain it in terms of all the adrenaline and things goijng through my body. But, it made me think for about a 1/2 mile or so about all 18,500 people who were doing this and all the families and stories that were behind all these people. I talked with one 50+ year old guy between mile 11-12 who had a heart attack last year during mile 24 of his marathon. He had multiple bypass open heart surgery and here he was running the very next year in a half-marathon. This was his first race back and after running with me for about 3/4 a mile he left me in his dust.
All in all, I am so glad that I ran. I didn’t even dry heave at the end! I am already thinking about what my next race will be. I can’t get to carried away because all the races tend to be on Sundays and I kinda have to work most Sunday’s. But I think I’ll shoot for at least 2 races a year. That will keep me motivated to stay in shape and keep on running.
I’ve felt so good, emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally since I started running. I have had a few people tell me they thing I’ve lost some weight (though I haven’t weighed myself). I do know however, that if I don’t have a goal in mind, like a race, I won’t be as disciplined in running consistently. I think I’ll shoot for a 1/2 in the Spring and maybe one more next fall. I have a friend who is trying to convince me that I should run an ultra marathon with him (30 miles) but I can’t even imagine that at this point!
For all you runners out there, I’ve been using the iPhone app called Runkeeper to track all my times and training. It has been awesome to use and I don’t get any money or anything for recommending them. 🙂 However, I did use it during my race and the GPS must have not liked the city streets of Philly because it got all confused with where I was. When I got to mile 7 I realized that my GPS updates and the real distance were about 3/4 mile of. I had only ran 7 miles but I thought I had run almost 8. That sucked.
Oh, the results? I finished in 2:15:36. I was really pleased with that.
Anyone else have any half-marathon advice?